The harp, with its soothing timbre and spiritual associations, has been revered as a healing instrument by many cultures for thousands of years. Over the past two decades there has been a renewed interest in the use of the harp in therapeutic settings. Harp therapy practitioners are employed at hospitals and other institutions worldwide. Others also work in clinics, and some even make house calls.
Many harp therapists play their harps at the bedside of patients in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes. Small harps with a range of three to four octaves are generally used for this due to portability issues. Practitioners who do this type of work are trained, not only in music, but also learn how to interact with patients, and how to comport themselves in an institutional setting. Both patients and institutions alike have responded positively to this type of harp therapy. Some institutions require certification for harp therapists.
Harpists who have been trained in other disciplines such as psychology, music therapy and occupational therapy, use the harp to elicit specific cognitive or behavioral changes in their patients. A harp therapist might also teach an individual to play the harp to assist in pain reduction, to help to overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges, to create a sense of community in a group setting, and to provide physical rehabilitation. Also, end-of-life music vigils are used to help patients achieve peaceful transitions.
Pictured below – Stein Hospice Harp Therapist, Devora Schiff, delights.